One of the joys of re-reading Jane Austen’s novels is finding something new each time, bringing with it a deeper understanding of her characters and the society in which they live. Although Austen is known as a romance writer (and, I would argue, the inventor of modern romance structure), I find her illustration of family dynamics to be the most appealing aspect of her work, and the reason she has fans around the world, across time and culture. She invites us into her life and times, and we recognize ourselves and our families in her characters.
Sometimes a re-read lets me see something I’ve missed the dozens of reads before. For instance, in Pride & Prejudice, when Jane catches cold and has to stay overnight at Netherfield, I had read the book countless times before it occurred to me that this wasn’t a ‘Regency thing’. It was just as embarrassing for Jane as if it had happened to someone in the 21st century. Mrs. Bennet’s brazenness in engineering the whole thing became even worse when I looked at it from that standpoint. Can you imagine — going to a stranger’s house for tea and then having to stay overnight for days? And the doctor has to come? Poor Jane!
There are lots of things to do in Bath if you like Jane Austen
If you are visiting the Georgian City of Bath at any time of year there are lots of ways to get involved in the life of Jane Austen Bath’s most famous resident.
The Jane Austen Centre in Gay Street is the place to go. Open every day. Here you will find the permanent exhibition which tells the story of Jane Austen’s relationship with the city. Staffed by costumed characters, visiting is a great way to get orientated.
Upstairs on the 2nd floor is the Regency Tea Room. Delicious meals, cakes, scones and 16 varieties of loose leaf tea are served by costumed staff. A must do whilst in town. If I wondered what to do in Bath for a treat, this is it.
In the summer and school holidays The Jane Austen Centre puts on FREE walking tours. Led by guides in costume this is a fun way to walk around the city finding the places that Jane walked, talked, shopped and loved. Lots of quotes and fun anecdotes.
Do want to get dressed up in Regency costume and maybe promenade or dance at a ball? What to do in Bath if this takes your fancy? Attend the Jane Austen Regency Summer Ball in June or take part in the 80 or so events at the September Jane Austen Festival – the biggest Regency event in the world!
You can promenade, listen to music, watch theatre, taste authentic food and just have fun with like minded people.
What to do in Bath if you love Jane Austen? There’s plenty.
That’s right, one week to go and Mrs Bennet isn’t the only one struggling with her ‘nerves’! The rest of the cast and I have been working VERY hard over the past few weeks to bring this Austen classic to life and now we are at the final stages. The set is up, the props are being gathered and scripts are being left behind.
Last week we focused on the epilogue; the letters. This scene has been specifically added to our adaptation by our directors after they were inspired by a performance at the Theatre Royal Bath.
“For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?”
Full of wit, humour and lackadaisical nature, Mr Bennet has to be one the most memorable Austen characters of all time. This week I have been working primarily with Bob (our very own Mr Bennet!) on the last scene between Lizzie and her father. This scene is pretty much the conclusion of the story and moreover it emphasises the close relationship between Mr Bennet and his, lets be honest, favourite daughter. We blocked the scene several times before adding the smaller, yet significant, details to the section.
With only 5 weeks to go, rehearsals are rapidly progressing. We have successfully run Act 1 and Act 2, with the majority of it being off script. Cate, our costume fairy godmother, has been busily making adjustments to our wonderful regency dresses. Adela and Heather continue to direct, produce and choreograph whilst keeping us all in line (and occasionally leading a huge game of musical chairs to wake us all up). As for me, I have been watching Jennifer Ehle, Keira Knightley and re-reading parts of the novel repeatedly to become very well acquainted with Miss Elizabeth Bennet.
With four proposals, three Regency dances, two confrontations with Lady Catherine and one kiss with Mr Darcy, rehearsals are well under way.
It has been 6 weeks since our Pride and Prejudice journey began and oh so much has happened!
Including all of this…
Meet the Bennet sisters!
And when we’re not in regency dress we like to relax with our other favourite cast member, the Athenaeum’s giant bear, aka Mr Darcy’s understudy…
With less than 7 weeks to go before our first performance, rehearsals have been in full swing. .We started by blocking the play whilst we had use of the stage, focusing on projection, space and entrances and exits. From here we rehearsed in the Function room three times a week, looking at the closer details of each scene. So far I have been particularly focusing on my more ‘main’ scenes including the famous first proposal from Mr Darcy… ‘You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you’. Johnathon (Mr Darcy) and I have been working closely on this scene to achieve the maximum emotion that is portrayed. It has been challenging and at times tiring (as I’m in every scene!), yet we are all thoroughly enjoying this exciting journey!
We have all been very busy trying to learn lines…
We even had a competition to see who could take a picture with their tote bag in the most interesting place. I believe Sir William Lucas won when he captured this in Venice!
And how are the Directors feeling so far…
“We are very happy with the progress made so far. The cast are working very hard to get “off book” and their hard work is beginning to show. Behind the scenes things are coming together nicely. Our producer is getting props organised. We have a soundtrack. We have a little over 6 weeks to go and I am feeling confident about the standard of this production. Tickets sales are coming in as people take advantage of the early bird offer.”
The Trial of Mrs Jane Leigh Perrot – the Primary Sources
by David Pugsley
Discussions of Aunt Jane’s trial and the question whether she was innocent or guilty are normally based entirely on John Pinchard’s account, conveniently re-printed in MacKinnon’s Grand Larceny (1937), as if there was no other source of information and as if all the witnesses were telling the truth. However, there are other contemporary sources
I. The advertisements in the Bath Chronicle and other local newspapers
There is a series of advertisements in the Bath Chronicle for no. 1, Bath Street, near or opposite the King’s Bath: 14 May and 16 July 1795, Gregory & Co; 19 May 1796, 5 and 12 January 1797, W Smith; 11 May 1797, Smith, “Mrs Smith is also just returned with an elegant assortment of Millinery, etc”; 29 June 1797, Smith; 8 November 1798, 28 March and 4 April, 21 November (“The Proprietor”) 1799, 6 February, 10 and 17 April, and 11 more dates in 1800; 10 dates in 1801; 12 dates in 1802; 10 dates in 1803, plus 8 and 15 December (death of W. Smith); 8 dates in 1804; 9 dates in 1805; 8 dates in 1806, including 18 December (“A vacancy for an apprentice at Christmas”); and 3 dates in 1807, ending on 19 March, all Mrs Smith.
Contrast Elizabeth Gregory’s evidence under cross-examination by Mr Dallas: “Witness said she had been in the shop nearly five years; kept it two years herself; is sister to Mrs Smith, who kept it before; Mr Smith in London 8th August; carried on business on her own account, not for the benefit of Smith and wife” (Pinchard, p. 10). Under further cross-examination: “Mrs Smith was not entitled to more of the profits than witness chose to give her … She bought and sold upon her own account and in her own name; it is customary and advantageous that the old name should be continued on shops, and it was sometimes done for years after a person had given up trade; Smith’s name was continued over the door with this view only” (Pinchard, p. 12).
(Were Elizabeth Gregory and Charles Filby taking advantage of Mrs Smith’s absence in Cornwall to try to make a little money for themselves?) Continue reading Aunt Jane’s Trial
Today was the day that every girl dreams of… meeting Mr Darcy. Matthew Macfadyen set the bar pretty high, not to mention Colin Firth coming out of the lake with a soaking wet shirt on… and then of course my favourite line of all ‘My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.’ Just perfection. So it was with no surprise that I was a little, well shocked, to meet my already-happens-to-be-married-with-two-kids-Mr Darcy. That’s not how the story’s meant to go?
Hello again! Yes, as you’ve probably figured out, today was the ‘Meet ‘n’ Greet’ for the cast of the Athenaeum Limelight Players’ Pride and Prejudice (https://www.janeausten.co.uk/austen-mania/ – read my first entry here). A great day was had by all and it was a fantastic opportunity to meet the other members of the cast, discuss plans for the rehearsal process …and eat Pride and Prejudice cake!
Here’s how I got on…
The whole group started with an ice breaker/warm up technique, ‘Zip, Zap, Boing’; a very fun game in which you have to pass the clap or the ‘zip’ around the circle and then various rules get added to make it a simple (although it was quite tough!) but effective method to not only break the ice between new people, but to challenge our reaction times and cues. (This will in time help our reactions and cues on the stage.)
Heather and Adela made the rules more competitive, if anyone hesitated or made a mistake – you were out. We were dropping like flies and unfortunately I didn’t make it to the final 8.
After the boundless laughs we had with this, it was time to cut the Pride and Prejudice cake (cue the excitement!) and then we had the chance to properly meet and talk to one another.
Once the very wonderful ‘Meet n Greet’, which directors Heather and Adela organised, had finished, I got the chance to ask them a few questions …
“WHY PRIDE AND PREJUDICE?”
H: “For me the choice was easy. It is the 200th anniversary of Jane’s death and P&P was always my favourite story. The rags to riches story with a twist. A feisty heroine who in a time of little choice for women, knew her own mind. This story is a reflection on Jane’s own life. A woman who broke from the mould of society”
A: “It’s my favourite of all Jane’s novels with Emma and Persuasion close behind. I have read and re-read everything she has written, and my favourite Darcy is Laurence Olivier whom I saw aged 16 when I did P&P for O level English Lit.”
“WHAT CHALLENGES LIE AHEAD?”
H: “I can’t wait to start this production we have the perfect cast but with a large cast there will also be challenges. Not to mention my first time directing anything!”
A:”My biggest challenge is having Heather say at the end that I was a colleague she enjoyed working with, who gave her every opportunity to learn directing, and a cast that has loved every moment of the process”
That’s all from me, find out next time what went on in our first proper rehearsal!
It is a truth universally acknowledged that an English graduate with absolutely no fortune must be in want of a job.
Three weeks later…
And I landed myself with the most perfect role; dressing up in long, elegant dresses, talking about one of the most famous female authors of all time and not to mention the opportunity to see Mr. Darcy as much I want…. in the form of a mannequin. During July of this year I excitingly began working as a Tour Guide at the Jane Austen Centre, Bath and this was just the start of my Austen mania.
Three weeks previously…
I nervously stumbled up the stairs towards the Function Room of the Warminster Athenaeum Theatre, on a quiet Thursday summer evening. The room was filled with many “Janes”, “Lydias”, “Mr Bennets” and unfortunately even the odd “Mr Collins”, all anxiously awaiting their audition. However, Adela and Heather, the directors of the play, made us all feel completely at ease and it was probably one of the most laid back, enjoyable auditions I’ve ever attended.
Aaand three weeks later…
I received a phone call from Heather offering me the part of Miss Elizabeth Bennet – shocked and amazed that I wasn’t going to be playing another tree in chorus 3 again, I took it.
Conversing about Jane Austen, learning about her time in Bath, dressing up in regency costumes AND playing the part of perhaps her most famous protagonist, I really am living the English Grad’s dream and I feel incredibly lucky and excited about this very special opportunity.
Watch this space to follow the mishaps, mayhem and magic of my Austen journey.